Grief and Grace at a Baby Shower


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I went to a baby shower today. The beautiful young mother-to-be has been a close friend of my daughter since they were in the fourth grade, and I love her like one of my own. Gathered all together in a large and beautiful room were some of the people who have caused the deepest, most excruciating pain in my life; along with people whom I love dearly, all mingling over coffee and brunch and gifts.

It was hard.

Never sure who is being kind because they want to, or polite because they made eye contact and have to, and always uncomfortable in groups and gatherings, I felt big, awkward and nervous, and very much in the way. At 5’10” tall, with nearly three acres of arms and legs, it’s hard to find a place to hide sometimes. I tower over the pastors’ wife (a petite and pretty blonde) like a Neanderthal giant. I swear I think she’s afraid of me. I have never, in all these years, had an encounter with her that didn’t leave me feeling completely and utterly humiliated.

Some days simply have too much pain in them. Way too much.

Time doesn’t heal; it numbs. I watched as a grieving couple who had lost their child was interviewed on a talk show last year. When asked how they had been able to “move on” the father said, “You only move forward on the outside. You take a shower every day because you have to. You go to work because you have to.” What else is there to do? I’m no more healed than I was five years ago when everything happened, although I can dress it up as well as anybody (I hope). People get impatient with grief when it’s not their own. They get tired of the fact that you’re not “over it” and “better”, although nobody seems to be able to describe what “better” actually looks like. It gets embarrassing to admit you’re not, so the best thing to do, especially at events like these, is to pretend that you are and secretly hope you eventually will be. Where are the ruby slippers when you need them?

Whenever someone gets married, or has a baby, or, Heaven forbid, dies, we all come together and eat cake.

Why do we do this?

I think about the young, beautiful mother-to-be and realize we do it because we’re happy for her. We love her. Everything else gets pushed aside because of love.  It’s what love does – it covers. It doesn’t undo all of the bad that has happened in the past, but knows that the people we love are more important than the issues, and that there is a time to forgive, and yes, to move forward. And it’s okay if you can only do it on the outside for now; sometimes just getting yourself moving can pull the rest of you along eventually. We are only as healthy as our relationships, and digging our heels in waiting for an apology only gets our shoes dirty. Sometimes we have to settle for a partial healing, which, all things considered, is better than nothing. I can say today was a taste of what healing would feel like, but I still have an uneasy feeling about who’s sincere and who isn’t. I honestly can’t tell. I do know that I don’t think I will ever be able to fully trust or believe anyone ever again, no matter how hard I try, or how nice they seem to be.

The best thing to do with a day like today is to pull the blinds, drink my tea and crawl into bed, trusting God to help me to face it all again tomorrow. I don’t have any anger or hard feelings towards anyone who was at the shower today, only a deep, relentless sadness that doesn’t ever, ever go away. It’s far too late to fix any of it; too much time has passed, and the people who need to care don’t care anymore.

So, we move forward. We walk with a limp, but we walk. We get up, take a shower, and do it all again tomorrow, by the grace of God, and with His help. Only with His help. His mercies are new every morning, and who knows? Tomorrow could be a surprisingly good day.

Even If


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This hasn’t been a good month for blogging. A recent surgery left me with some unexpected complications; my daughter came home from college, depositing the entire contents of her dorm room into my living room, and there’s nowhere to put it all away until fall. It can’t go in the basement because it floods down there when it rains. The power in the house keeps going out, and the drains don’t work well. I saw the landlords at the grocery store when I was buying Draino and told them things were okay over here only to come home to find the lights flashing and the clocks blinking. The beautiful trees that gave us privacy got quite a haircut, and the branches are littering the yard. (The line crew had to cut many of them down, and they’re sending a chipper on Monday to clean it all up). The driver’s side mirror of my car is still in the trunk (I accidentally knocked it off when I pulled up to buy a coffee last year) and the muffler is loud enough to make conversation difficult when driving.

Stress is high and the funds are low; too low, in fact, to meet the needs of the moment: medical bills, car repairs, household items and household bills. The priority is, as always, paying the rent. But rest is also a priority. So is healing. And quiet, which is hard to come by lately. I’m frustrated because I had hoped I would be feeling a lot better by now, but it’s taking awhile. Days are filled with doctor’s appointments and medical tests, and I’m pushing to get it all behind me so I can move on. Writing and studying have taken a backseat to taking care of the crisis of the day. I’m still concerned about the problems in the churches but can’t seem to find the time to sit down and write about it. Seems like every time I sit down I fall asleep lately.

Speaking of which, I am off to bed. I just wanted to check in and leave a note in the midst of this present storm, and hopefully things will right themselves soon. But even if they don’t, I will say along with Habakkuk:

“I WILL rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation,  even if:

The fig tree does not blossom,

The vines do not bear fruit,

The olive crop fails,

The crops in the field fail,

The flock be cut off from the fold, or

The herd be cut off from the stalls.”

(From the six-fold Consecration of Habakkuk 3:17-19)


The Prison Epistles (Re-post)


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4098718595_9e7f57455d_mIn most of his letters to the early church, Paul begins with doctrine and ends with the practical application of doctrine in the lives of believers. Paul stated that he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ”. The Greek word apostolos means to be a delegate;  one sent with the full power of attorney. It means to act in the place of another, the sender remaining behind to back up the one sent. In the case of Christians, it means that God sends us to do what he Himself would do in our place. We are to represent Him in the world.

Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the church in Ephesus, sometime around 60 A.D. He was under guard in rental quarters in Rome (see Acts 28:30) and the letter was delivered to the church by Tychicus. At the time, Ephesus was the leading center of the Roman Empire; Paul stayed there for three years on his third missionary journey. At that time it was the capital city of the province of Asia.

There are two categories of knowledge: pure, or theoretical knowledge (doctrine) and applied knowledge, which is the practical application of theoretical knowledge. For example, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians the first three chapters deal with doctrine (the calling of the church) and chapters 4-5 deal with application (the conduct of the church). This letter was addressed to the saints living in Ephesus. The Greek word for saint is hagiois, or “the Holy ones”; those who are set apart for God’s own use. It is the essence of what it means to live as a Christian and to be a follower, or disciple of Jesus Christ.

Paul taught that the Jewish and gentile believers are one in Christ, to be demonstrated by love for one another. He encouraged them to love both God and their fellow saints in Christ. Agape is the Greek word for love as a noun; agapao is the verb form. Paul uses both forms in his letters; agape being the love of God (as in “God is love: and agapeo as being in how that love is expressed through the lives of the saints. There is also a third Greek word for love: phileo, which is the love felt in relationships between people (as in friendship) but here Paul is primarily dealing with the application of doctrine, the foundation of which is the love of God in us and through us.  Paul’s focus was on maintaining unity within the church.

This letter begins and ends with love;  it was most likely a ‘circular letter’ meaning that while it was written to the saints in Ephesus, it was most likely passed around to the other churches as encouragement to love each other, and as a reminder to establish churches that were not based on rules and structure alone, but churches where the love of God was to be manifested to the people through the lives of the saints.

Fast forward about two thousand years.  Paul is under house arrest, somewhere on the outskirts of the city of Syracuse.  Tychicus is sitting with him;  the two men are having coffee and Paul is listening intently to the report of the churches.  He is disturbed by something that Tychicus is saying:  “There is a teaching going around in Syracuse, Paul, that in order to love others you must first love yourself, as though it is doctrine.  The people have focused on this, and their activities seem to include reading a lot on self-love, and attending groups to learn how to love themselves.”  Tychicus sits in silence as the Paul lowers his head into his hands, and sits silently.  After a time of deep thought, he lifts his head and says “Please bring me my pen.”  Pouring another cup of coffee for himself and his guest, he sits down and begins writing.  “To the Church in East Syracuse . . . to the Church in Fayetteville . . . to the Church in the Valley . . .”

This is a reprint of an old blog post from November of 2012; a period of deep grief and reflection for me. I have spent this snowy afternoon looking over old writing, beginning with the very first post in the spring of 2010. I liked this one in particular, however, so I am re-posting it today. I’m still working on the next article in the Sozo/ deliverance and inner healing series, and may or may not get it finished in the next couple of days. Writing has been immensely therapeutic for me, as it has been for as long as I can remember. I have my journals going all the way back to elementary school, along with a copy of my very first ‘book’, written when I was somewhere around ten years old. I found old articles today that I had written years ago, and an early copy of my testimony. Interesting reading.

I’m heading out now to brave the wind and snow and see if there are any Sunday papers left. Not likely after the games this weekend, but will come back to writing the next post in the series when I get back home.

Have a blessed and peaceful day, people.

You must be even more careful to put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him. ~ Philippians 2:12b – 13

Syncretism: Where the Odd and Unholy Come Together


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graveHere’s a new one for you: Grave-soaking, also known as grave-sucking. Closely related to the sport of mantle-grabbing, the idea is that the dearly departed leave behind whatever anointing they carried while alive in the box they’re buried in when deceased, free for the taking. Takers can either sit, stand, kneel or lie in front of, or on the grave of, those who are no longer sitting, standing, kneeling or lying and summon the vibes of saints whose bodies are six feet under. It’s a new and disturbingly creepy trend that some of your friends and fellow pew-warmers are engaging in.

Bethel Church, in Redding, California, the same church delivering the dubious ministry of Sozo (along with gold dust, diamonds and bird feathers) has long been known for a host of unholy behaviors and associations, but this one steals the show. Once you’re all cleaned up and cleaned out from Sozoing and Shabaring, you can embark on a church-endorsed field trip of grave-soaking (a.k.a. grave-sucking). A quick internet search pulls up disturbing images of the people from the church – leaders and youth included – draped over headstones or lying prone on slabs inscribed with the names of prominent, long-dead Christians.

As a result of all of the bad press Bethel has received due to the photos and videos on the internet, Beni Johnson (her birth name is Brenda) took to her Facebook page to make the following statement: “I am not what they call a grave-sucker. Just so you know. That’s creepy.” And yet, that’s Beni herself in the photo above, lying on the grave of C.S. Lewis. To give you an idea of the mindset of those perpetuating the practice, John Crowder (a Bethel associate, whose ministry is endorsed by the Johnsons) was taped while kneeling at the grave site of Alexander Dowie. Looking into the camera, he stated:

And we’ve just come to the grave today to release to you an impartation of  healing revival; of city-building, restoration, city-taking anointing, master-building anointing, and so we just rip it right out of the ground; we just suck it right off his dead bones, in Jesus’ name, and loose it to you; a healing-revival-glory-master-building-apostolic anointing glory …

If this sounds to you like the confusing mess that it is, it’s simply a reflection of the New Apostolic Reformation and Third Wave movement that has been propagated by those who have declared themselves to be the new apostles and prophets of the end-time generation. People who flock to these movements are found on the Elijah List, in the Healing Rooms, and trying to work their way up the Seven Mountain Mandate. Think this can’t happen in your church? That surely your leaders are so rooted and grounded in scripture that they would see right through all of this? If your church is utilizing Sozo materials in their ‘Freedom and Deliverance Ministries’ then know that it has already happened – the lion is no longer at the door, but is roaming freely up and down the aisles, and in and out of our classrooms. The Bible is clear: Satan doesn’t appear to us with a pitchfork and horns, otherwise we would recognize him for who he is, but he appears instead as an angel of light, promising blessings, healing, and untold wealth and prosperity to those who are desperate, vulnerable, needy or blind. And the shepherds (the pastors, deacons and elders of the church) have a God-given mandate to protect the people entrusted to their care.

The lure of mysticism is subtle. Syncretism is that odd mix of the holy and the profane that we are seeing with ever-increasing frequency in our church services. Syncretism, as defined by Webster, is simply this: “the combination of different forms of belief or practice” and to syncretize is particularly telling: “to attempt to unite and harmonize, especially without critical examination or logical unity.” It appears to be a politically correct form of Christianity, not just in America, but one that has spread rapidly around the world. Celebrity Christians are selling ideas such as ‘contemplative prayer’ and the ‘breaking of soul-ties and generational curses’ to a people who are more interested in having an emotional experience with God than a solid, biblically accurate relationship with Him. The idea of soul ties and generational curses, along with the perpetual quest for inner healing are nothing more than New Age, occultic, and mystical teachings that have infiltrated the church to such a degree that people are signing up for (and paying for) counseling sessions and classes without batting an eye. Combining any false teaching with the Word of God is absolutely forbidden in scripture, which clearly commands that we are not to take away from or add to the written Word. When we do, we end up with a confused and unhealthy church; one that is both deceived and diseased, and we are left with nothing but a chimera for a God. We’re a group of people who can decree, declare, and rebuke everything right down to the consequences of our own foolish choices, but who can’t walk straight when the fog-and-light-show ends.

Bill Johnson, Beni’s husband, and the senior pastor at Bethel, believes that:

There are anointings, mantles, revelations, and mysteries that have lain unclaimed, literally where they were left because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it’s possible for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations.

Nothing in scripture supports this.  The anointing of God is not just lying around unclaimed, waiting for us to soak it up at will. We don’t serve a hapless God who is sitting in the heavens wringing His hands, bemoaning the fact that we’re all down here stumbling over years of unclaimed anointings and mantles.  Spiritual growth is not a Christian version of an Easter-egg hunt. We develop insight and spiritual maturity by spending time in the Word, not by laying on the graves of those who have already left the earth. If the normative Christian life were to include going back to suck the glory out of dead bones, wouldn’t the letters to the churches have been the logical place for the New Testament writers to tell us so?  Instead, we’re told to learn from the heroes of the faith, and to emulate their faith, but we’re not told to try to dredge the rewards of their faithfulness for ourselves by lying on their graves. 1AA4

Sunbathing on grave sites didn’t originate with the large church on the West Coast, however; Benny Hinn has been known to try to suck the leftover anointing out of the graves of Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee Semple McPherson. The practice stems from the idea of transferable anointings, or mantles (a teaching made popular in the Word of Faith and Latter Rain movements of the last century), hence the term mantle-grabbing. These aren’t teachings you will find within the pages of scripture, however. What you will find is that necromancy is absolutely forbidden by God. In the Old testament (see Deuteronomy 18:10) those who practice it are called an abomination to God. This includes any form of communicating with the dead, whether it’s channeling, praying to a dead saint, calling up your beloved grandmother, or grave-soaking. Nor will you find that any mantle or anointing was ever transferred from a dead person to a live person in scripture. In fact, the only time a mantle or anointing is transferred from one person to another is through relationship, as in the case of Elijah and Elisha, so the next time you find yourself cozying up to a skeleton, you might want to stop and consider the health and depth of your relationship with your fragile friend. And while you’re down there, you might want to stop and think about the health and depth of your relationships and associations in general.

grave-sucking-2 So shake off those mold spores and grow up.  You’re not supposed to smell like a cemetery.  You’re not supposed to sprout gold dust and feathers; to bark, foam at the mouth, roll on the floor, or shake and laugh hysterically, or participate in any of the other mindless activities associated with hyper-charismania. You don’t need to lay on the ground and try to work yourself into a trance by singing the same verse of a song over and over until your geese bump and your flesh tingles. (There’s actually a name for this unholy practice; it’s known as “carpet-time”). Read the New Testament carefully and you will find that not only is self-control listed as a Fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:23) but in almost all of the letters to the churches we’re encouraged to control both our minds and our bodies. Christians are people who should be known for our resemblance to Christ. We’re not supposed to be known as people who post “selfies” of odd behaviors that nobody naming the name of Christ should be engaged in, but rather, we’re exhorted to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting the people of God.

2nd year BSSM students at the grave site of Evan Roberts.

2nd year BSSM students at the grave site of Evan Roberts.

“For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasant and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, and will turn aside from hearing the truth and will wander off into man-made fictions.”  – 2 Timothy 4:3,4 (Amplified)

“Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be so in contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them. For it is a shame even to speak of or mention the things that [such people] practice in secret. But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear, there is light. Therefore He says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light. Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.” 

– Ephesians 5:11-17 (Amplified)



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SAM_4068We’re going to take a break here for a minute from all of the soaking, sozoing, and shabar-ing we’ve been doing lately, so grab yourself a towel and sit tight.

A week ago today, the March issue of Good Housekeeping hit the newsstands. I, along with five other women, were interviewed by a journalist for a story the magazine wanted to do on domestic violence. I’ve never been interviewed for a national magazine before, and I have to say it’s been an interesting experience. The whole process took about six months from beginning to end.

I wrote a lot, not just about my own situation, but about domestic violence in general, and emotional abuse in particular, which is what the term gaslighting refers to. It’s taken from the 1944 movie Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. Other terms for this kind of abuse are mind games and crazy-making. They’re tactics used by an abuser that are intended to make you question your own reality, or worse, make others doubt your reality. It’s a ploy designed to isolate you, and cut off any means of support or help. It deflects attention away from the behavior of the abuser and onto the person they’re abusing. The behavior itself isn’t addressed; instead, the mental stability of the person being abused becomes the focus (yes, gaslighting occurs in counseling, and frequently results in collusion) and this is why you do not ever counsel both spouses together when there is domestic violence going on. It’s a dangerous (and in my case, almost deadly) mistake, and one that Christian counselors in particular frequently make in their zeal to “save the marriage”. But untrained and uninformed people can do a lot of harm, even when they mean well. Domestic violence is not a matter of anger management. Abusers manage their anger very well, and can stop on a dime and turn on the charm when they want to.  Most churches, at least the ones I know of, never have a domestic violence agency come in and train their leaders. This is why most of the people in the pews don’t bother reaching out to church leaders for help. It isn’t there.


Anyway, I thought I had made myself pretty clear, both in what I had written and in the phone interviews, but I think that in the end the editors of the magazine tried to make my story fit their story. I think that what they wanted was a part on spiritual abuse, and pulled bits and pieces from what I had written and said about my own experience in order to do so. The problem is that while my husband was emotionally, physically and verbally abusive, the spiritual abuse, if any, came from the church, not him.  (I personally don’t consider my disappointment about not being able to go to Bible college to be abuse at all). They completely missed the fear and danger of what my daughters and I went through.

The part about what the elder’s wife said is true, unfortunately, but that is not the point at which I “quit reaching out and started praying I’d find a way out.” The truth is, I never did actually reach out to begin with; help found me, first from my primary care doctor, and then from a pastor at a different church than the one we were attending. The part about my pastoral counselor isn’t true at all; she never said that, or even implied it. All I said in the phone interview was that I made the mistake (huge mistake) of having my husband go along with me to my counseling in the first place, and that he controlled the whole thing from the beginning. But my counselor was never his counselor, and we didn’t go to her for marriage counseling.  Looking back, I can see that maybe I didn’t make that clear.  I thought I did, but I was so upset at the time that it’s possible that I didn’t.  I had to look over all of the notes from the police reports and court appearances in order to send the facts of the charges and orders of protection for the magazine, and in reading the court reports I can see that the counselor honestly thought we were there for marriage counseling, when, in fact, the counseling was for me. I knew I needed a witness and an advocate, and help with the grief and anger I was trying to deal with on my own.  I knew that whatever I was facing was going to be too heavy – too difficult – for me to handle by myself. Friends and family can love and support you, and they did, but they can be too emotionally involved sometimes to be of much practical help. I just needed the facts regarding adultery, from him, because those were the facts I believed I needed in order to decide what to do about divorce. I didn’t know that it was okay to leave an abusive situation if you were a Christian; I was never taught that. He went, because he wanted someone to validate him and protect his reputation; and to make sure that my counselor didn’t believe me.

I also wanted to make it clear to the editors that I, like most women, didn’t stay in the marriage because of “low self-esteem”. The average woman will leave an abusive situation an average of seven times.  The church leaders (at the time) had a “three-times-and-you’re-out” policy, meaning that they would help and support you no more than three times, and if your situation didn’t improve, then they were done with you, and you were on your own. There was absolutely no knowledge or awareness of domestic violence, or how to help people in crisis. The most dangerous times for any woman in a domestic violence situation are when she is pregnant, or during the first six months after leaving.  Another huge reason woman stay, and something I stressed to the writer, is the issue of finances. When women leave an abusive situation, they, along with their children, quite often fall immediately below poverty level. If all you have ever been is a stay-at-home mom, and in my case, a home-schooling mom, and all you have is one car, which he is going to get to take with him; and no viable means of getting employment and health insurance, you’re going to do your best to make that marriage work. Losing your house is not a small thing, especially if you have children; in our case, it has resulted in years of moving and instability that have only made things worse, not better.  I’ve never had the chance to get better, because I’m always trying to keep a roof over our head and the lights on. I can’t remember a day that hasn’t been clouded by grief and worry for over fifteen years. There are no ‘happy’ days, although there are happy moments, albeit few and far between.

Having said all of that, years of physical and verbal/emotional abuse do take a toll, and yes, your self-esteem suffers. When all you hear, day after day, is “No one will ever love you – no man in his right mind will ever want you – even your counselor is going to see what you are and reject you” (and she did, in the end) it hurts.  You don’t feel attractive, you don’t feel pretty, you don’t feel wanted. You feel pathetic. Rejection and fear are the feelings you learn to live with on a daily basis. The physical abuse is simply too embarrassing and too difficult to write about, to be honest. The whole thing is humiliating.

The one quote in the article that is exactly what I said is that “divorce doesn’t end abuse, it merely changes it. It may not be happening in your living room any more, but it happens on the phone, in the driveway, at school events and soccer games.” The church still shuns you, although they let you know in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that they are “praying for you and hoping you come back to the Lord.” I didn’t fall away from the Lord however, or ever lose my faith in God, although I’ve lost it in people. On the contrary this experience has deepened my faith in God. The person who actually helped, in the end, wasn’t my own pastor but was Pastor John Carter, from Abundant Life Christian Center in Syracuse, N.Y.  He is the only person I actually ever saw confront my husband about the violence in our home (on the midway at the State Fair, of all places) and I will forever be grateful for that, and for his help and counsel.  I went to Abundant Life after the divorce because I felt safe there. The counselor helped in that it she provided a safe place to go and try to deal with all of it. Sometimes we need to pay someone to just sit still and hear us.  To be both a presence and a witness to our grief, and sometimes, but not always, a friend.

Anyway, I thought that everything I said in the interview was all very clear. The problem, I believe, lies with the magazine editors, not the writer of the article. She seemed to understand what I was saying, and as a counselor myself, I know how difficult it can be to try to write a verbatim account of everything that was said in an interview, especially if you don’t know them personally.  It’s easy to make a mistake, or to get a wrong impression, no matter how hard you try to be accurate. When the ‘fact-checker’ editor from the magazine called me, I did tell her that she did not have the facts quite right, and tried to correct her, but she seemed to already have the story written as far as the magazine was concerned. I told her that the quote from my counselor was incorrect, and asked that it not be included, but for some reason, they wrote it into the article anyway.

I am horrified to see that they quoted her as having said something she did not ever say, or even imply, and to see it when I got my issue last week was extremely upsetting. I can’t fix it, no matter how sorry I am, and have had a difficult week worrying about it all of it. Any relief I had from finally being able to tell my story has been ruined by the error, however unintentional it may have been. After six long months of waiting for this story to come out, I don’t think I’ve done anything but cry since it did. Believe me when I say that I haven’t slept in a week. I am just so disappointed.

What I learned from this whole experience is that the story that results from an interview is not necessarily going to be written at all the way it was said. I will never read an article again without thinking I wonder if that’s how it really happened? I learned that from now on I will write my own articles, and tell my own story.  I may not get it all right, but at least I will know why, and where the problem lies.


Refuting the FAQ’s


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SAM_3670The more I look into this, the more odd and unhealthy the whole thing gets. According to the FAQ’s as posted on Bethel Sozo’s website, a Sozo session is “framed” with the Father Ladder (a method of interviewing the client) or the Four Doors (supposedly four key areas of sin through which demonic possession or oppression can occur, boldly ignoring all of the other sins listed in scripture, all of which are of key concern to God). According to the FAQ’s page, a Sozo session will contain elements of these Sozo tools: Father Ladder, Four Doors, The Wall (think resistance, or more specifically, an emotional or psychological blockage) and Presenting Jesus, and states that other tools may be used, but “will not dominate the ministry time.” These are only four of the ‘tools’ used in a Sozo session; the others are considered Advanced Tools, namely, Trigger Mechanisms and Divine Editing. In addition to that, and for an additional cost, there is Shabar, for those who are beyond the scope of deliverance available through ordinary, entry-level false teaching.

“Presenting Jesus” has to do with conjuring up an image of Jesus in your mind (this is akin to divination, which is forbidden in scripture) and ‘re-writing’ the script of past abuse (real or imagined) by picturing him as being present in the memory. This tool is actually derived from the teachings of Dr. Ed Smith, who invented Theophostic Prayer Ministry, and even earlier from the teachings of Agnes Sanford, who began the ‘inner healing’ and ‘healing your inner child’ movement. Nowhere in scripture are we told to do this, however, and if an image representing ‘Jesus’ appears to you in your prayer session, it is in all probability either a figment of your imagination, or even worse, it is a spirit most assuredly not of God. The ‘freedom and deliverance’ movement itself is based largely on superstition and magical thinking, not on faith and reason.

The purpose of these tools is to dig for repressed, or forgotten memories of past abuse and emotional wounds; they are psycho-therapeutic techniques long since discredited and no longer endorsed by mainstream psychotherapy. Worth noting is the fact that neither of the two women who created Sozo are professional therapists, and apparently know little of mental health and evidence-based theories and therapies. They also, by their own admission, have no formal training in biblical doctrine and theology.

In answer to the question “When is a Sozo/deliverance finished?” the site states that the session is finished “when you [the counselor] discern that the ‘strong man’ has been defeated” or “when you or the ‘sozoee’ feel that you are finished.” (Emphasis mine).

Let’s be clear: anyone with even a shred of discernment or biblical knowledge should know that the ‘strong man’ in a true Christian is God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, and that the devil and God do not occupy (dwell in) the same space (house). Do you really want to cast the strong man out of a believer? Those who are advocating for deliverance ministries in the church will be quick to acknowledge that while a Christian cannot be possessed from within, a Christian can be ‘oppressed’ (demonized) from without. This is the justification generally given for allowing these ministries to operate within the church, and as a result, many people are lining up in churches and conferences around the world to have their particular thorn in the flesh removed. And they’re paying a pretty penny for it, too.

They will also be quick to point out that some of the people Jesus delivered [cast demons out of] in scripture were in the temple, ergo, they must have been Christians. Just because you find it in the cookie jar, however, doesn’t mean it’s a cookie, and you couldn’t then and cannot now make the assumption that every person in the church or hanging out on the church property is a born-again, Spirit-filled, bible-believing Christian.

In answer to the question “In a Shabar session, when do you know when to quit if complete integration is not accomplished?” the somewhat lengthy answer is that if you can’t get the client completely integrated, you are to focus instead on providing information, hope, and at least some integration, along with an admonishment to not force the person or ‘parts’ to talk to God. These clients are to be given time to see “if they like the parts being gone” and whether or not they want another session.

This alone should be enough for you to stay clear of any ministry using Sozo. It is a blatant reference to Multiple Personality Disorder which, as I wrote about several weeks ago, is not a legitimate diagnosis, and therefore requires neither treatment nor ministry. They don’t seem to have access to this information on the West Coast however, and so are accepting payments in order to deliver people from a problem they don’t – and can’t – have because it doesn’t exist. The sheer lunacy that forms the foundation of these ‘deliverance ministries’ pales in comparison to the ethical concerns.

Think about this: even Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, eventually died and stayed dead. The Bible doesn’t say that he lived the rest of his life in perfect health, or never got sick, or experienced problems that could be interpreted as ‘being oppressed’. And nowhere in scripture did Jesus partially heal someone and then send them home to wait 3-6 months to see if they were ‘okay’ with living partially healed, or if they wanted to come back later, check in hand, in order for him to completely heal them the second or third time around.

Further down the FAQ’s page, the question “Can one Sozo session actually heal a lie that has been believed for many years?” is answered in the affirmative. “Once the Lord heals the first time the lie was settled into your spirit, the rest of your life experiences based on this lie will realign to His truth.” The real answer, however, is that Sozo itself is based on lies, and no, you cannot be ‘healed’ from your painful memories in just one session. Spiritual and emotional healing comes from many hours spent in the Word of God, along with time in prayer alone; your life experiences will heal and ‘realign’ as you study His Word and apply it to your life, meaning that you will begin to see the events and experiences in your life in light of a greater picture (from God’s perspective). It doesn’t miraculously happen in one or two facilitated Sozo or Theophostic prayer sessions. The idea that all of your problems are based on believing lies is a recent trend that has infiltrated the church through books like “The Search for Significance” and “The Bondage Breaker.” Your problems aren’t caused by believing lies, however, they’re caused by sin, whether your own or someone else’s.

This is a subtle deception that has crept into the church through the recovery movement, eroding the clear message of the gospel and our need for salvation through Christ alone. You were “sozoed” when you became a believer; when you first believed that Jesus is Lord, that He died on the cross for your sins, and that He delivered you from eternal death by taking your place. This is deliverance for the Christian, and if you are one, then you have already been delivered. The real bondage breaking happens when you break free from all of the superficial, superstitious nonsense that is passed off as normative post-modern Christianity, and begin to seek and follow Truth as it is portrayed in scripture.

Another noteworthy find on the Sozo ministries FAQ’s page is the question “How do you minister to someone who received wounds while in the womb?”

Yes, it actually says that. And yes, they actually attempt to do this.

Are we really that gullible?

A popular misconception currently sweeping the churches is the idea that trauma and abuse ‘open a door’ to demonic oppression, but this is pure superstition, plain and simple. Trauma and abuse are terrible actions perpetrated by human beings who act out their sinful natures and evil tendencies on those who can’t defend themselves. They are not ‘entry points for the enemy’ or sources of demonic oppression, and you don’t heal these things by subjecting already wounded and traumatized people to a ‘deliverance’ session. Nor, for that matter, do you need healing for wounding that occurred while you were in the womb. Your mother might, but you don’t.

The FAQ’s page also states that “the leaders of your team should be the ones sozoing the leaders of your church.”

If someone is “sozoing” the leaders of our church, then we have a much larger and different problem – one that involves leadership, and their responsibility to keep false teaching out of the church, not to participate in it.

Can I lead someone to freedom if I don’t have any myself? would be humorous if it weren’t so disturbing.

Having said all of that, there is one guaranteed way to be delivered from demonic oppression that doesn’t require shelling out your hard-earned cash for a thinly veiled exorcism. Calling it ‘deliverance’ is merely a matter of semantics.

The one sure path to deliverance from demonic oppression is to abandon the Christian faith.  Because if you think you’re going to attempt to live the rest of your life as an even remotely mature believer, and think the enemy isn’t going to be a constant thorn in your flesh while you do so, you haven’t really studied your bible or the history of the church.  You can expect to be oppressed, tempted, persecuted and tried from the moment you set your mind to live a righteous and holy life. You can’t cast out consequences. There are demon-possessed people out there, but they aren’t spirit-filled believers, and odds are they aren’t holed up somewhere with a bag of chips, desperately searching websites for the nearest church performing exorcisms.

I can’t say this strongly enough: stay away from Sozo and Theophostics, and all of the other ‘inner healing’ and ‘deliverance’ ministries, especially those that utilize elements and techniques of recovered memory therapy. They are not healthy, they are not biblical, and they are not necessary.

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.      1 John 4:4



Have We Lost Our Minds?


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The weird and wacky comes not only from the East, but also from the West.  The West Coast, to be specific.  In Redding, California, there is a church called Bethel.  And at this church called Bethel, there is a ministry called SOZO.  And within this ministry called SOZO (Greek for saved, healed, delivered) there is another ministry called Shabar.  (A Hebrew word meaning broken-hearted but which can also mean shattered).

There are six ‘tools’ that are used in SOZO:

  • Father Ladder
  • Four Doors
  • Presenting Jesus
  • The Wall
  • Trigger Mechanisms (Advanced Tool)
  • Divine Editing (Advanced Tool)

These are psycho-therapeutic techniques used by the facilitator (counselor) in a 2-3 hour session for determining the point of the client’s “father wound”, an idea straight out of repressed memory therapy and the inner-healing movement.

For those who have sought help, healing or deliverance through SOZO, but were unable to attain (or maintain) their help, healing and deliverance, there are special (advanced) methods within Shabar both for those who are aware and also for those who are unaware that they have been Shabar-ed.

I swear I’m not making this up.  But someone is.  Two someone’s, in fact:  Dawna DeSilva, the founder and leader of SOZO ministry, and Teresa Liebscher.  They, along with the Bethel SOZO team, are making their money by taking your money for a method of healing and deliverance that is not only nowhere to be found in scripture, but wasn’t found anywhere at all until they thought it up and marketed it.  Which, for those of you who haven’t noticed, is apparently how we do ‘divine’ or special revelation these days.  We download it from the recesses of our minds and imaginations, put it into a book or DVD format, stick a PayPal button on our website, and voila – we’re legit.  (Well, only if and when people hit that little ‘add to cart’ button).

Bill Johnson, and his wife Beni are the senior pastors at Bethel.  (A pastor, also called a shepherd in scripture, is someone who has the responsibility of leading, guiding and protecting the people of his church, especially from wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing;  A.K.A false teachers).  Bethel, which had its start in 1954 in Redding California, was originally an Assemblies of God church, but in 2006, under the leadership of Johnson, it became non-denominational.  It’s a large church, with a large and active healing and deliverance ministry, and an Alabaster Prayer Room where people can go to spend time in prayer, or for an experience called ‘soaking’.

I looked the word soaking up in the concordance to see what the Bible has to say about it, and here is what I found:

Absolutely nothing.

We live in odd times.  We live in an age of self-appointed apostles and self-proclaimed prophets, many of whom have everyone on Facebook hungering and thirsting to claim them as their new BFF.  It’s time to grow up, people.  There’s a lot going on in the world, and too many of us are running house to house and meeting to meeting to find out “what new thing God is doing”.  Except that most of it isn’t new;  we’re borrowing it from metaphysics and mysticism, which has been around a lot longer than we have.  We’re just putting catchy new labels on it, but idolatry by any other name is still idolatry.  We’re not making mature disciples, we’re making flaky ones.

If anyone tells you that they have received special revelation freely from God (and this isn’t, it’s been cobbled together partly from the teachings of Randy Clark, who took his show on the road to Bethel in the 90’s, and partly from ‘deliverance’ ministries in Argentina) and they want you to pay them in order to receive this special revelation from them, think twice before giving them access to your bank account.  And while we’re on this subject, if anyone requires you to sign a release of liability form before they will pray for you, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.  Find someone else to pray for you, or do your own praying.  There should be all kinds of red flags and warning bells going off in your head on this one.  Can you see, anywhere in the New Testament, where anyone pulled a bunch of papers and a pen out of their robes before ministering and said “We’re going to set you free, but sign here first”?  I don’t think so.

I guess my primary concern with all of this is its propensity to create and encourage the formation of false memories.  In the secular world of psychology, methods like these were debunked and discredited long ago (well, according to a recent Harvard newsletter I received, not so long ago) but for some reason, the church – especially our local ones, are still doing the kind of counseling that isn’t so much about growth and maturity as it is about ‘healing your inner child’ and digging for whatever image may pop into your mind that would explain your current dysfunctional behavior.  There may well be abuse in your past, and quite a few traumatic memories.  But, by and large, people don’t forget trauma, and the dysfunctional behavior more often than not is due to the stress and pain caused by not being able to forget.  Any memory that you now have, that you didn’t have before your therapy, or before going for prayer (this includes Theophostic prayer, or the use of any other therapeutic technique that defies the laws of both science and common sense) is suspect and should not be taken as a real and legitimate [accurate] memory.  This includes psycho-therapeutic techniques such as writing about your early childhood with your non-dominant hand in order to probe the unconscious, or subconscious mind, to the use of hypnosis, or any other practice that results in an altered state of consciousness.  This happens quite easily after 2-3 hours of prayer or mindless singing (and chanting) of the same mantra, verse, or even worship music.  You alter your brain waves, which is exactly what happens when you are asleep and dreaming.

Yes, we do need to spend time in prayer alone with God, and there is nothing wrong with listening to worship music, or praying for extended periods of time.  Our days would go better if we did.  But we also worship God with our lives, and too many of us are wasting our time running all over town, and all over the country, after every new trend and teaching that appeals to our emotional needs and desires, and more importantly to our emotional pain and desperation.  The enemy knows this, and when he can’t tempt us into sin, he uses the strategies of deception and distraction, and that is all that these false teachings amount to in the end.

And so, for heaven’s sake – for your own sake – quit soaking, sozo-ing and shabar-ing, and be instead like the Bereans of Acts 17, who sought truth by searching scripture.  And keep your money in the bank.

 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.          Acts 17:11






SAM_3674Here is a theory, in fact, I believe it to be a truth:  the absent parent is the one who holds the power.  I’ve heard it time and time again, from many a client, indirectly from my own children, and thought it many times regarding myself.  No matter what kind of person they were, or how heinous the crimes they may have committed, the parent who leaves is the parent who reigns.  Children hate divorce.  Regardless of the reason for a parent’s absence, they will be deified, glorified and vehemently, if need be, defended.  It may not be fair, it may not even be logical, but missing people leave holes.  Closure is a myth; we absorb the pain of loss and it becomes a part of us.  Scars tell us not only that we ourselves are real, but that what we have been through is real.  It’s proof that we have lived – are living, still – when all else says otherwise.  People leave.  They disappear.  There one minute, and gone the next, whether through death, divorce, or some other reason known only to themselves and God.  Sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes in the middle of an afternoon, they are suddenly gone, taking hopes and dreams and all of their empty promises with them.  We deal with their absence the way we deal with most of our  unresolved and unhealed trauma – by revisiting the scene of the crime; if not literally, then figuratively, over and over again, in vain and often subconscious attempts to get a different outcome.  We sit in graveyards or parking lots, therapy rooms and waiting rooms.  Waiting.

… always waiting ...

For what, we don’t know and often can’t put into words.  We speak to people who are no longer there.  We dream about them, and have imaginary conversations in our minds with those who have long ago up and left us or shut us out, leaving only ghosts, shadows and tears in their wake.

And a whole lot of pain.

How we deal with the pain is another matter entirely.  I personally prefer pain to be private, at least the deep pain that distorts the body and the face until we’re unrecognizable, even to those who love and care for us.  No, that kind of pain is for deep corners and dark closets.  Therapy rooms, if we’re lucky enough to find someone who is both safe and compassionate, but for most of us, we have to find our own way.  I write my blog in lieu of therapy; the pastoral counselor who made such sincere and heartfelt promises having long since shut and barred her door in a fit of anger;  over what, I still don’t know.

I saw a photo of myself yesterday, and was struck by how bad I look and how much weight I’ve gained since That Horrible Day.  I don’t even recognize the woman in the photo;  she looks sad and tired.  It’s embarrassing and discouraging.  In my head, I have felt that I’ve moved on and am doing okay, but seeing that picture made me realize that I’m stuck.  I’m carrying a lot around with me, and I’m reasonably sure that everyone can see it, at least on the outside.  My friends don’t say anything or even seem to have noticed, but comments and little ‘jokes’ from family sting.  I don’t like photos of myself, and never have.  It’s why you’ll never see a profile picture of me that is actually me, not a flower, or a joke, or a pretty picture of something.  In my lifelong quest to be invisible, this blog is the only thing I have that is really me.  That, and the hundreds of books and other miscellaneous objects I cart around with me from house to house.

I had a recent health scare, and while the biopsies came back negative, it did make me think Good Lord, I need to do something about all of this.  Looking at that photo made me realize that I’m not as in control of my life as I’d like to think I am.  I feel as hopeless and helpless over this area as many of the people (clients) who have sat in front of me do.  I owe it to them to figure it out.  I have no idea how I’m going to do this, but I have to at least try.  I have a lot to lose.


Pain has an element of blank;

It cannot recollect

When it began, or if there was

A time when it was not.

It has no future but itself,

Its infinite realms contain

Its past, enlightened to perceive

New periods of pain.

– Emily Dickenson


The Healing House


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It’s a difficult thing, this healing from misguided therapy.  And lonely.  There are no awards.  You don’t get a coffee mug, or a T-shirt saying “I survived False Memory Syndrome.”  Or, for that matter, one saying “I survived bad psychotherapy”.

I have studied everything I can get hold of, and my brain feels stretched and tired.  I’m discouraged.  I feel I have so much to ‘unlearn’ that it’s not even funny.  So much of what I’ve been taught in this long journey as a Christian, and, I’m ashamed to say, so much of what I’ve believed and taught myself, is not even scriptural.  (Meaning, it can’t be found in the Bible).  It wasn’t until I had the space, time, and opportunity this past year to actually unpack everything, and look at each and every book and teaching I’ve collected over the years, and consider honestly where and who it all came from.  Because of crisis, because of having to leave an abusive situation and raise two kids on my own, while working and going back to school, I just kept “doing” without stopping.  The only times I had to think were the times I spent walking, and talking to God, and trying to process everything that was going on.

But I never really unpacked all of these boxes until we got to this house.  We never had the room, and I never had the time.

A couple of years ago, a co-worker asked me to come and be a counselor at her new place of ministry in the city.  It wasn’t long before she asked me to teach the group Healing for Damaged Emotions, based on the book (and workbook) by David A. Seamands.  The book is based on the popular notion that we all need healing from our past hurts and damaged emotions – that our inner child is controlling us because we have ‘unhealed memories’ that, through a process delineated throughout Seamand’s books, we can be now be healed, and so move on to living victorious Christian lives.  How the church survived without this enlightened teaching for over two thousand years, I don’t know.  What I hadn’t realized was how much of his teaching is based more on Eastern Mysticism than on biblical truth.  It was an obscure reference in one of his books to his ‘ashram retreats’ that caught my attention.  Not surprisingly, Seamand’s was raised in India, and his beliefs are more in line with other ‘Christian mystics’ who are also known proponents of cataphatic prayer* and methods of inner healing derived from the early synthesis of the teachings of Agnes Sanford and Carl Jung.  Somehow, and without our noticing, these teachings have crept into the church to the point where we have an entire ‘recovery’ movement based on healing our wounded emotions and healing our inner child.  We have sin-specific groups that are based not on fellowship and spiritual growth, but rather on our particular areas of woundedness and our identity as a victim.  Self-love is the new mantra of the church, but it’s bad theology.

I taught this myself, and now regret it, using Seamand’s diagram of the rings of a tree, showing how an injury from way back in our past influences our behavior today.  While I don’t dispute the notion that past injury can still affect us in the area of our current thoughts and behavior, the biblical standard of sanctification is pushed aside as a means of wholeness, and a self-absorbed victim mentality now presides over the throne room of our minds.  The idea that the root of our problems is low self-esteem, as Seamand’s teaches, is as egregious as the idea set forth in The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee: that the root of all of our problems is the fact that we are believing lies about ourselves.  The two teachings, taken together, result in a self-focused, lie-based theology rather than a God-focused, sin-based theology.

I think we’ve fallen far, and I know many, myself included, who have fallen hard.  We are wounded, not so much by our memories, but by the constant refrain that the only way to achieve a victorious Christian life is to heal all of our old wounded emotions.  The problem of course is that our emotions are going to, in all likelihood, be wounded again tomorrow.  Unless you find someway to cauterize those nerve endings, they’re going to get hurt, time and again, for as long as you live on this earth.  It becomes a never-ending process of self-absorption and introspection.

Does that mean we should never seek to be healed from past hurts?  No.  Nor am I a proponent of abdicating therapy, or counseling.  There is a time and a place to find a safe, wise person to talk to who can help or offer a different perspective, but it should lead to growth, wisdom and maturity, not stress, confusion and sickness of mind and heart.  It shouldn’t cost you your relationships, your job, your health, all of your resources or your education.  What I am saying is that we need to be careful.  Be very, very careful about jumping onto a bandwagon without first seeing it clearly for what it is.

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.  J.G. Kennedy

*Cataphatic prayer is prayer that “honors and reverences images and feelings and goes through them to God.  This form of prayer also has an ancient and well-attested history in the world of religions.  Any sort of prayer that highlights the mediation of creation can be called cataphatic.  So, praying before icons, or images of saints; the mediation of sacraments and sacramentals; prayer out in creation – all of these are cataphatic forms of prayer.” (From Seeing is Believing, by Dr. Greg Boyd).  This book, like many others written by popular Christian authors, promotes the use of imagery and visualization in order to experience God and achieve inner healing.  God specifically forbids this, however, and likens it to the process of divination.